Backgammon is one of the oldest known board games with a history that spans thousands of years. Many historians believe that backgammon can trace its origins to ancient Mesopotamia, the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where the Sumerian civilization flourished.
Archaeological evidence, including ancient game boards and dice, supports the idea that a precursor to backgammon was played in this region. Some believe that the Royal Game of Ur, an ancient Sumerian game that dates back to around 2600 BCE, is a direct ancestor of backgammon. The Royal Game of Ur shares some similarities with backgammon, including a race-like element and the use of dice.
The Roman game Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum, which means “Game of Twelve Lines,” is another contender. It was played on a board divided into three rows of 12 points each, similar to the layout of a backgammon board. This game was played around the 1st century AD.
Backgammon may have evolved further during the Byzantine Empire and spread to Persia, where it became known as Nard or Nardshir. This version of the game had some differences from modern backgammon but shared fundamental similarities.
Backgammon eventually made its way to Europe, where it became a popular pastime during the Middle Ages. The rules underwent modifications, and the game acquired different names in various European languages.
The name backgammon itself is derived from the Saxon words baec back and gamen game, suggesting the game’s characteristic use of backward and forward movements. The evolution of backgammon involved cultural exchanges, adaptations, and regional variations over centuries. Today, it remains a widely enjoyed and played game across the world.
Backgammon is a is a two-player game where each player starts with 15 checkers on a board consisting of 24 points or triangles. The points are arranged in four quadrants of six triangles each.
The goal of the game is to move all of your checkers around the board and bear them off before your opponent does. The movement of the checkers is determined by the roll of two six-sided dice. Players take turns rolling the dice and moving their checkers accordingly.
Each player starts with their checkers arranged on specific points. The initial setup is not random. Players move their checkers based on the numbers rolled on the dice. They can move one checker the sum of the two dice or two different checkers corresponding to each die.
If a player lands on a point occupied by a single opposing checker, the opponent’s checker is hit and placed on the bar. The hit player must re-enter the checker into the opponent’s home board and bear it off again. Once a player has moved all of their checkers to their home board, they can start bearing them off the board based on the dice rolls. The first player to bear off all their checkers wins.
Backgammon often involves the use of a doubling cube. Players can propose to double the stakes of the game before their turn. The opponent can either accept the double and continue the game at the new higher stakes or resign and lose the current game.
If a player bears off all their checkers before their opponent bears off any, it’s a gammon and counts as a higher win. If the losing player has not borne off any checkers and still has checkers in the winner’s home board or on the bar, it’s a backgammon and counts as an even higher win.
Backgammon is a game of strategy, probability, and skill. Players must decide how to best use the dice rolls to move their checkers, while also considering blocking their opponent and maximizing the chances of hitting opposing checkers. The game combines elements of skill and luck, making it a dynamic and engaging pastime.
I started playing Backgammon at the age of Four, and by the age Seven I started playing against myself. By the age of Ten I started playing against adults for fun and in tournaments. I started the Chess and backgammon club at University Of California Riverside and taught many people how to play Backgammon. It’s a fun game and allows the brain to process different scenarios simultaneously which helps with better decision makings.